The discomfort of strangers

No, these photographs are not another attempt to shock cheaply or to titillate, but the work of celebrated Magnum photojournalist Susan Meiselas.

Yes, the ubiquity of imagery from the sex trade, and its commercial rehabilitation to the mainstream, used to sell everything imaginable, has robbed the imagery of some of its impact. Yet the issues of gender and power still challenge in Meiselas’s photographs and remain far from irrelevant.

In a seminal moment in feminist photography, between 1972 and 1975, Meiselas spent her holidays documenting the women who performed striptease and their entourage in two small towns in the US, publishing the photographs as Carnival Strippers. Some two decades later, Meiselas returned to the subject of the power balance between men and women, this time looking at an S&M club in New York, where the submission was primarily male.

Now in garish colour, the photographs were grouped together for a book, entitled Pandora’s Box. A travelling exhibition, which combines the two projects into one, heightening the issues inherent in both, opens this week in Liverpool. Meiselas will be present both to discuss her work and to present a masterclass.

Intimate Strangers runs from 31 March to 20 May at the Open Eye Gallery, 28-32 Wood Street, Liverpool L1 4AQ. Tel: 0151 709 9460

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